The Worth of a Scorpion

Once upon a time, a great warrior went hunting with the goddess Artemis and her mother, Leto. During the hunting, he boasted that he would kill every beast on Earth. The Goddesses were not happy, and so they decided to create a Scorpio to do battle with this great hunter. It is told that it was an epic battle. So mighty it was, that it caught the eye of Zeus itself. In the end, the mighty warrior fell and the scorpion won.

After the battle was done, Zeus decided to honor the victor and place it in the skies, among the stars. When Artemis and Leto knew about this, they asked Jupiter to also raise the fallen warrior to the skies, which Zeus ended up doing, as a cautionary for humans about the dangers of excessive pride. The hunter’s name was Orion, and you can easily see both constellations in the sky. Interestingly, Orion and Scorpius appear on opposite sides of the celestial sphere and they’re best seen on different times of the year: Orion in the northern winter; Scorpio in the summer. But never both at the same time, just in case Orion gets boastful again and that nasty Scorpio is somewhere near…

The bringer of Death and the gatekeeper of Darkness

The idea that a small, crawling beast like the Scorpio can kill a hunter capable of “destroying all the creatures of earth” is an amusing one. There are echoes of that story of David and Goliath, with the small, puny scorpio being able to take down such a mighty warrior like Orion. Now all scorpions have venom and this venom is enough to paralyze or even kill its intended victims. But only a few species have a venom capable of killing a human being.

Even so, the Scorpio is equated with death. Orion’s death is not the only one credited to this tiny animal. Another example is the story of Mithras, the Persian god of light who slew a bull so that its blood could fertilize the Universe and thus create life. However, the evil Ahriman, sent a scorpion to sting the bull’s testicles and thus, destroy all life.

From Egypt, comes the story of Isis and the 7 scorpions. According to the myth, these seven scorpions have all sworn to protect both Isis and Horus, who were fleeing from the killer of Osiris (husband of Isis and father of Horus). One night, Isis and Horus, along with their seven guardians arrived at the Delta Town of the Two Sisters. They seemed shelter there for the night, at the house of a rich woman. This woman, however, was not convinced by the scorpions and refused them lodging, making them all take refuge at the home of a poor, but well-intentioned woman. The 7 scorpions, however, would have none of that and decided to take matters into their own hands.

Six of the scorpions lent their sting to the seventh, a large bold scorpion by the name of Tefen. Tefen crawled its way back to the rich woman house and stung her son. The son died and immediately the house burst into flame and water fell from the sky, even though this happened outside the rain season. The rich woman was completely distraught. She ran throughout the village, crying and asking for help, but no one would come. As she had refused help before, so help was now being refused to her. Eventually, Isis heard her cries and relenting, restored the child’s breathing by reciting the names of the 7 scorpions, sons or Serket and her guardians. The poison died; the child lived and both the fire and the water stopped. As for the mother, realizing what had happened there, donated all her wealth to the poor woman who had welcomed Isis in.

In China, the scorpio’s venom was part of a formula to create something truly potent: gu poison. Spiders, centipedes, scorpions, toads and snakes would be put in a jar and forced to fight each other in a highlander-styled competition where only one could survive. It was believed that this survivor possessed such a concentrated toxin, it could kill a men in a matter of days.

In old Babylonia, scorpio men were employed by Tiamat to guard the gates that give entrance to the Land of Darkness, to which the sun god goes each night to rest before rising the next day.

As below, so above

These stories are just a few examples of the type of narratives that were built around the Scorpion animal and that ended up being reflected on the star sign of Scorpio. Which is why when people speak about the themes of this star sign, they will usually mention death (and eros, which is never too far behind), the journey into the underground and even their sense of justice.

And Power. Power is big with Scorpios. As you saw in the first story, a scorpion was powerful enough to take on Orion and kill him. But not only that, his power caught the eye of Zeus itself who decided to celebrate the animal and its accomplishments, by getting him a place in the sky to shine upon us all. In the second story, a scorpion is responsible for a house starting to burn and for rain to fall down from the sky on the dry season. Power. Scorpios have power to correct misdoings and power to kill as they please. Now that’s something!

When Jupiter entered the sign of Scorpio last week, all I could think were the stories. Specially the one about the Death of Orion, as it involved both parties: Jupiter (as the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Zeus) and Scorpio. While most texts that I chanced upon stressed how important and revealing this transit would be or what the consequences were of the movement of the Lord of Expansion (Jupiter) into the Realm of the Underworld, I continued to think that Jupiter is entering the House of an animal he admired so much he placed it (again, as Zeus) in the sky. True, there is the revealing and the raising the whole dark / shadow / repressed part of oneself, but still…

Orion died at the hands of the Scorpion, because he was too boastful and attracted the attention of the wrong people. Orion died, because what he bragged around didn’t correspond to the truth. And Orion died because the truth that that Scorpio represented ended up being too much for him. In the end, Jupiter elevates the Scorpion, not only for its power, but also for being a reflection of a Truth so mighty most people don’t resist. Scorpios love Truth and they will wield it as a weapon against you if need be. Be aware of that, the next time you provoke a Scorpio; remember Orion and how lucky you were by not being killed by their sword play.

The entrance of Jupiter in the World of Scorpio could then be seen as a two movement dance: the first act would be the confrontation with the issues that need to be handled / killed, which will obviously lead us into Shadow work territory and all that it entails. But the second act would the the ascent of the Scorpio to the heavens itself, as a recognition of the qualities that make Scorpions such powerful animals..

Now shadow work will most probably take us to those places where we lock everything that we deem not fit for our daily life: emotions, impulses, desires, fears, and more all get buried far away from the light, in the Underworld. Confronting these issues will undoubtedly takes us through these Nether realms, something that — as stories warns us — is not an easy thing to do. The fates of Inanna and Orpheus should be enough to shine some light on how those journeys can change those who end up doing them. But these stories also shows us something else that we might already have intuited with the title: there are great riches in the Underground and now that Jupiter — Lord of Expansion, Sovereignty and Abundance — entered the House of Scorpio is the time to go after them and bring them up to the surface.

As we do this, and again taking the myth of the death of Orion as a guide, we will draw the necessary attention from the outer powers to elevate us to the stars. By killing that which needs to be killed, we are opening the door to something bigger, more powerful. But to achieve this, we need to be faithful to who we are. It is a time of sharp truths and unpleasant honesty which, like the Scorpion in the story, we will be called to face.

What do the cards have to say about Jupiter in Scorpio?

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The idea is to go deep inside oneself and to emerge from this cycle in balance. There are some common elements in the cards of the World and the Hierophant, like the four elements at the corner and the two center figures. So the background remains the same. However, the woman is no longer wrestling with the snake, but has, in the Hierophant card become the sage. The serpent is also transformed into a shadow-person and now lies peaceful at the feet of that very sage. But to achieve this, we need to pass through the Hermit. To walk along the dark corridors of the mind, looking for those things we have left encased and forgotten.

Looking at both the World and the Hermit, it’s easy to see why this cycle has been seen with caution: the shift inwards implies that we have to face ourselves and whatever lies inside us. The horizon turns pitch dark and not even our weapons can shed some light here. You can see exactly that in the card of the 3 of Swords.

But while things doesn’t look good, what exactly are we being asked to deal with? Our motivations and expectations for once (as seen in the King of Cups and the King of Coins). Well… that’s to be expected. If indeed, the Lord of expansion goes Underground, then luck and abundance will get buried. Whatever you might think, this is not that bad. Riches have always been underground. Our food, water and everything else we might need also comes from the earth. So our focus has to change and turn into the earth. To get to those riches, we need to use our roots. Which takes us nicely into that third card, the 8 of Coins: we stop expanding, trying to reach higher planes. We stand our ground, and that’s it. There is a need to be cautious, for sure (5 of Wands) and centered (4 of Swords) while we deal with the naked truth that comes to meet us (Prince of Disks) and how it binds us.

All of this just to say “stop defending yourself from yourself, and open up to what’s inside  of you”. As below, so above. As we turn into ourselves and deal with what’s inside of us, so too does the world turns to us and extends a hand or two to ease our way up. The first thing that comes to us is a sense of lightness, that we’re so light we can almost escape the ground and fly. And why wouldn’t we fly? We’re dealing with the excess luggage so now it’s time to rise. To move up. So off we go.

The second thing that comes to us is we are now able to operate fully. The shadow-woman who appeared in the card of the Hierophant is now glued on the Pope, meaning that for all intents and purposes, this work was successful and we’ve managed to rise from a split personality to a fully working character where even our “ex-shadow” is called upon to contribute. Which again, goes into the whole theme of Riches in the Underworld. And what could be more precious than that part of us that we decided to lock up in the basement?

In the end, the cards say that this will be a time of personal discovery. It will be a time to get re-acquainted with who we really are, ground ourselves and close every rip we can find in ourselves. The Scorpio is once again asked to kill that which boasts it’s better than the rest of the world, but can’t resist a single creature of darkness. Or a single creature of truth.

 

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Balancing Movement with Quietness

In the tarot, the Death card can have many meanings. The first one is death, obviously. Something or someone is going to die. Usually it’s something that dies, so you can lay that particular image down to rest. In fact, in my practice, I’ve foreseen actual physical deaths more often with other cards of the tarot (like the Hermit or the Chariot) than with the Death card. And well, when I say something, I mean everything that is something: a cycle in life that ends; a relationship; work, etc. And then, well… there’re all those meanings that usually come up in books about changes and transformations… But between you and me, since no one else is reading this, all of these meanings are just for those who can’t accept death at face value.

My relationship with Death is just like that. I have no problems accepting that someone dies and I usually deal with that very well, just when I start thinking about my own death, everything changes and what was rational becomes emotional. The whole idea that death is just part of life and that everything has an end I was brought under gets cut down and I find myself looking into the abyss, this long and dark abyss wondering what the hell is going to happen to me. Death frightens me, because I love having a life and the idea of loosing it is just enough to scare the shit out of me..

It’s also interesting how we keep using the word “loosing” when talking about death. There’s never any mention of loss in the tarot books. And yet, we loose. We loose our lives and the company of others. We loose things in us that we cared about. Even when we didn’t do that much to keep those things near to us, death still acts as a painful reminder of what was once there. There is loosing and there is protecting those whom we might think are incapable to deal with the issue of death. Like children, who are often told not that someone has died, but that that someone has left. ‘Gone to God’, ‘gone to heaven and became a star’, ‘left to be with some family member’. There is death and there is loosing. My death frightens me because I loose everything: family, friends, living, etc; but other people’s deaths don’t mess with me, because no matter how personal the loss, there’s still something left behind.

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One of the things that I like about the Death card of the Waite Smith deck is looking at the people who face their coming end. Everyone of them has a different reaction. I mean, here is Death all high and mighty entering stage left riding its horse and flying its banner. And all of a sudden, people start dying at its passage. There’s a priest there, a young girl and a young lady. On the left, the King has died, as it should, he being the symbol of temporal power. Of the power that always ends up dying. The pope, who raises his hands high, either as a sign of worship or to plead to death not to take him just yet. The young woman with the flower wreath, hands down, lying on her knees with her head leaning sideways, as if she has just surrendered to death. And the child who boldly walks up to death and kneels before it.

Death takes all, young and old, rich and poor. It takes both the ones who are tired with living and the ones who embrace it. For, as we were taught since we were little, death is one of the very few certainties about life. And really, were I to have a life without death, would I want it? I don’t know. There’s something about things having to end that gives them value. If there’s anything I cherish in this life it’s those moments the happen before everything is done and over. Like I said above, I take many things for granted. Not giving them the attention and care that they should have. It’s the idea that they might end someday that makes me move and want to enjoy this moments as often as possible. If this idea is over, what is left? People and moments that little by little become forgotten in the haste of daily routines. Connections who just sit there, gathering dust, not really going anywhere and not really ending, since there was no end in site. How bland everything would be…

On the other side, two things usually bother me in the Waite-Smith card: that death arrives fully armored and that it rides a living horse. I can understand that sometimes, death does come announced: in a prolonged illness, in a fall from a building or something like that. But other times, it comes softly, unnoticed. So this parade that is seen in the Waite-Smith card can be unsettling. Ok, it’s the idea of Death as the great conqueror. But look closely: Death is riding a living horse! Surely all living things already carry the seeds of death with them. And then I look at the Marseille card, with just a skeleton doing its dance, grooming its garden and I end up asking, “Why the hell does all of this mean?”

Thankfully, cards can answer all questions. Even those about them. There’s something you don’t understand in a card and can’t work it out by yourself, well then: ask the cards! Which is what I did.

Why does Death come fully armored?

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THE POPE / THE WORLD / THE MAGICIAN
I look at the Pope, and see him pointing upward. Death comes from above, he seems to say. As it enters this world, It needs something to manifest her in it. Hence the armor. The key is in the world card: the four figures in the corner, standing for the four elements indicate our world. And then there’s Death, separated from it by that green wreath. It is coming, bearing its gifts, but still needs to take a form, which is what she ends up doing in the Magician. For all of its power here, Death remains disconnected from this world. It remains its own unique thing. For Death is death and there is nothing remotely like it.

Why does she ride a living horse?

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THE EMPEROR / THE WHEEL / DEATH
Two cards caught my eye here: the first is the card of Death. I mean, really? I’m asking about Death and it decides to show up in the reading? Talk about being omnipresent! The second was the Emperor card. I see immobility here. I see a man wanting to do its stuff but being stuck in its place. And yet, as the Wheel card seems to point out, things continue to move in this world of finite beings; everything keeps going. We know that the Wheel card refers to this world, because once again, the four figures at the corner that represent the elements are present. And so, death comes. Riding a living horse, because again, all living beings carry the seeds of death.

But then, there’s something else. Something right there staring at me and demanding my attention. And I notice: there’s movement in the world of the living, but not in the realm of Death. There is no change in Death; only permanence. This means that to act upon this world, Death needs to be able to move. Which is the domain of the living. So it really has no choice but to use a living being.

This is an interesting idea: that which is comes after that which moves. That which moves can only hope to remain still. But living is all about moving: it is doing stuff, meeting people, seeing places. It is about creating events. And I look again at that little girl down on her knees, looking up to Death and I smile. For in her young age, she is the only one in this whole picture that actually understands what it means not needing to move.

How Tarot Cards Play Out in the Real World

If you’re new to the cards and haven’t built up much experience yet with readings, it can be a bit difficult to see how they relate to actual happenings in the real world. At least in terms of how I taught myself tarot, the images on the cards and the stories they could create when placed together all seemed theoretical and impersonal until I had years of real-world experience to relate to each and every one of them.

In an attempt to add a bit to the overall knowledge base regarding how readings play out in the real world, every once in a while I’d like to let you have a peek into my own personal tarot journal. The internet didn’t exist when I started teaching myself tarot, and I would have really liked to have been able to get a look at how experienced readers interpreted the cards and applied them to actual practical situations.

So, in the spirit of learning, I’ll let you in on one of my most recent practical uses of tarot for myself.

As you may or may not know, I am a single, divorced, working mother of three elementary-school-aged children (9, 7, 7). Needless to say, my romantic life has been stalled to non-existent for quite some time. Now, however, I feel happy and serene as a single person and I’m no longer looking for someone to fill up a void in my heart or emotional life.

Some girlfriends encouraged me to try online dating. So I put up a profile and started chatting with some men. One of them was really funny and attractive. We made plans to meet for a coffee. And then it occurred to me (I’m an American living in Italy, btw) – I had forgotten to ask if he was married or had a girlfriend.

Although I certainly don’t want to generalize, in my own personal experience in Italy, I’ve learned that men often don’t have any qualms about taking a lover on the side in addition to their steady girlfriend or wife. While I don’t pass judgement on their choices, I don’t want to be anyone’s other woman. 

Here’s where the reading comes in.

When it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked him, I figured I might as well perform due diligence. So I asked him outright in a message if he had a girlfriend, wife, lover, or was otherwise engaged with a significant other.

His immediate response was a flippant joke, which struck me as a way to deflect and avoid. 

That was suspicious to me, and no answer was forthcoming, so I turned to the cards. Situations like this, when you have a “hunch” but there’s an information gap, are excellent practice readings for learners. When and if you get more real-world information, you can compare it to the information you obtained from the cards and your interpretation of their message for you. The more you make these comparisons, the more your confidence and knowledge will grow.

I drew three cards: 1) What I need to know about Marco; 2) Advice/guidance for me re: Marco; 3) Outlook.

Here’s what came up:

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Three of Wands, Death, Seven of Swords

[Practice exercise: If you had to simply make a sentence out of this string, keeping it in context with the questions posed, what would it say?]

Here’s verbatim what I wrote in my journal:

“Oh, see – now that’s a real shame. I had this feeling smth was going on – like he’s not really single. This spread says he has his eyes elsewhere, let the whole concept and idea of him die, and you’ll see he had smth to hide. Boo! Now let’s see how it plays out…spill the beans, Marco.”

I left it at that and decided to follow the advice of Death – let it go, close it off, leave it behind. It wasn’t easy to follow this advice because my initial impulse was to respond to his jokey message and gloss over it and explain why I had asked. Instead, I stayed silent as a tomb. Death doesn’t utter a word, not even an emoji. Total crickets. 

It was only a matter of hours before I had my answer!

He later spontaneously sent a message admitting that yes, he has a girlfriend; but, and I quote: “she lives abroad and I hardly ever see her.”

Ah, tarot. How I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Let’s now look specifically at two of the cards that, in my own experience, have shown up repeatedly in specific real-life situations.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Three of Wands has come up repeatedly in my readings for clients in situations where there are long-distance relationships and in situations where one of the partners is contemplating a move overseas (or in any case across water or a long enough distance to require relocation) in order to be with the other. I didn’t touch on the overseas part in my own brief written analysis of this reading (because I already knew that part in my head), but I did make sure to note what the figure is doing on the card: he has his back to me. Thus, what I needed to know was that he certainly didn’t have his eyes on me, but rather elsewhere, across the water. In fact, I came to find out that his girlfriend lives in Spain.

Secondly, the Seven of Swords is a card that I’ve seen repeatedly for clients when there is a situation of cheating or getting away with (or attempting to get away with) something secretly. I generally dislike assigning specific keywords and situations to a card, since it’s better to be fluid enough to interpret every card uniquely for each unique reading. However, the Seven of Swords is rather difficult for me to extricate from the context of cheating when it shows up in a relationship reading, especially as it regards trust issues or secrets.

If you’re learning how to read the cards, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping a journal. I’ve been reading now for nearly 20 years and as you can see, I still physically jot down notes with an actual pen on an actual piece of paper every single time I do a reading for myself. Documenting your readings has immense value for your learning, especially further on in the future when you have real-world findings, information and results of the situation that you can bring to bear on your initial interpretations.

As you grow in experience, you’ll begin to amass a substantial collection of actual situations that you can link back to particular cards, and this becomes a really important toolkit you can draw upon if and when you decide to start reading for others.

Your thoughts?

If you want to experience the power of a tarot reading for yourself, please visit me over at Sparrow Tarot (sparrowtarot.com) to learn how the cards can serve as a road map to help you navigate your life’s journey.

Life as an Escape Artist

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There’s something strangely appealing about an escape artist. Even though the premise remains the same for more than 100 years – a guy puts himself in a situation from which escape seems impossible, only to get out a few moments later – we still get carried away with this type of presentation. Maybe it’s because we’re trying to figure out how will the escape artist manage to escape its condition. Or maybe it’s the “will he make it in time?” question. We know he will, as he obviously would not present an act that wasn’t properly rehearsed. But even so, there’s always this little thought in the back of our heads asking “What if he doesn’t do it?”

That’s the thrill of it… To see someone against impossible odds and actually succeed. That’s also the thrill to many of our stories. Where the “hero” is faced with an impossible task. Something that only he can do, even if, at first glance, it does seem impossible. A position that, for better or for worse, he cannot simply not choose to do it. Whether he likes it or not.

This type of situation can be represented by a tarot card. It’s called The Hanged Man and it speaks about being put in a position where you know you have to do something regardless of anything else you might want or wish or desire. It even has the same type of imagery. When it appears in a reading, it normally means something like “Sacrifice”; “Changing views/perspectives/opinions”; “Waiting”; “Loss”; “Redemption”; “Saved by the bell”…

There is, however, an aspect of the card which is seldom addressed. The part of the hero. I recently came over this as I was reading Grant Morrison’s “Seven Soldiers of Victory”, a two-volume set about seven heroes, who must combine their efforts in order to save the world, even though they can’t be together (you can find them here and here). In it there’s one sequence where one of the seven heroes, Zatanna, questions herself about what should a hero do:

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Zatanna #4, by Grant Morrison and Ryan Sook. Part of The Seven Soldiers of Victory collection.

So, the typical “Hangman” situation, but seen by the eyes of a hero. And… what would the hero do?? Sure enough, he/she would go straight ahead and walk into hell if need be in order to get it done. He/she would confront whatever it is that needed to be confronted, whatever the personal cost would be.
Just like in real life, when faced with The Hagman, we have to confront whatever ails us and be done with it. And here’s the interesting part: In the Hangman card, we’re chained. Chained by our dreams; our misconceptions; our prejudices. Chained to people and things we don’t want to loose. Chained to points of view that no longer favor us. And it is the dream of every person who sees itself in that situation to escape it. To find a solution where he/she can still keep all of hir luggage and still get out of hir predicament. By dealing with these types of situations, and while we’re not ready to let go of that excessive luggage, where testing the waters to see what we can expect. We’re trying some solutions. And we’re developing ourselves as a person. We’re expanding our limits. We’re putting ourselves to the test. When we reach a “Hangman” situation, we’re also putting ourselves against impossible odds and trying to figure out a way to beat them. In our own private little story, we’re actually taking the role of the hero.

Of course, when facing the impossible we have to adapt. To develop new skills in order to effectively handle the problem we have in front of us. As Steve Englehart has put in his novel “The Point Man”,

“in order to become someone else, you first have to be somebody else.”

As every tarot reader knows, we resolve the Hangman card by breaking the bonds. By dealing with the subject in matter in a way that allows us to move on. But do we really deal with the issue at hand, or do we just find an escape route that allows us to keep the same luggage and sort of “move on”? Or even, something in between?

Life is an expert at building us traps. And we’re also experts at falling into them. An escape artist knows what to do and gets it done. There’s no harm there. He just moved from trap to trap, from one impossible situation to another and makes his living. A hero, does deal with the situation at hand, many times if necessary, and always with some personal cost. But, as everyone knows, in either situation, there’s always a door open and sometime in the future, this same situation can and will rise again.

As if there isn’t a definite solution to the problem at hand.

In real life, we’re always training ourselves to dodge bullets. To deal with whatever situation life throws at us and to leave it behind as soon as possible. We are dealing with it. But it can also be seen as escaping its dangers. Its consequences. Is it, then, unexpected that the next card turns out (in traditional decks) to feature someone on a horse riding (escaping?) in a direction that suggests movement from the past to the future (left to right)?

The Death card is supposed to be all about “personal or voluntary transformation”. Of  “killing a part of yourself, so that you can create something new”. It’s about resolution and leaving behind what’s supposed to stay behind, so that the new can come in. New situations. New challenges. New developments and, ultimately, new escapes.